Over 6,000 cases per year of oral cancer have been reported for the first time ever and the increase is thought to be due to the increasing rates of human papilloma virus (HPV). The majority of cases in the UK were reported among men in 2011. It is thought that the higher rate in men could be related to the fact that men tend to drink alcohol to a greater degree and smoke more heavily than women.
There has been a 90% increase in the amount of cancers originating at the base of the tongue and a 70% increase in the number of cancers discovered on the tonsils. These areas are strongly associated with HPV. The HPV is likely to have been transferred to the mouth during oral sex.
80% of sexually active people in the UK are likely to contract HPV at some stage in their lives and many of them will contract less serious strains of the virus however there are cancer causing strains that could be potentially fatal if not caught in time and treated.
The good news is that those who have a HPV related cancer are more likely to recover than those who have developed cancer due to drinking alcohol and smoking. With such significant increases in these cancers that can be associated with HPV-16, we are likely to see doctors recommending that boys as well as girls get vaccinated with Gardasil, a vaccination that protects against HPV-16.